27 October, 2011

The Return of Halloween in the Hoosegow

Do you feel the chill? There's a faint burning scent on the breeze that sweeps from the north to nip through gaps in your coat. It is the approach of Halloween. I feel it in my marrow, the pull — a merciless desire against which I am powerless. For, on the night of the thirty-first, as the moon creeps up to bathe the world in her pallid light, I am compelled to submit to my ghastly craving... for a horror movie marathon and a one-and-a-half square-foot spread of deluxe nachos.

In accordance with the ancient ritual we set forth a couple of years ago, my hunchbacked companion, Zach (all right, so maybe he's just a little slouchy — it's called artistic license, people), and I consulted the fell grimoire that is the prison's canteen price list to begin, weeks in advance, planning and procuring all necessary elements for our diabolically calorific feeding frenzy. We thought early preparedness would ensure our homage to the nacho gods would be a worthy one. But no more are olives sold by the canteen, nor are illicit onions from the kitchen. Our aboveboard and underhanded supply chains failed us equally. Arguably worse, funds were in limited supply. Still, we amassed what we could: tortilla chips, beans, meat, cheese. Even these barest ingredients would cost us dear future comforts, but the All Hallows Eve ritual must take precedence. We would not be denied our celebration.

On the night of the fifth of October, our seasonal plans were set in motion early by the broadcast of the slick new FX Network supernatural soap opera, American Horror Story, signaling the slow creep onto TV of frightful fare. "And so it begins!" I said, a sinister mwah-ha-ha on my lips, as the show's herky-jerky opening credits ran. Oozing sexuality from its every scene, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink premiere episode was almost too much (and mildly annoying in its repeated somnambulistic exposure of Dylan McDermott's ass); though by the second week of the series my inner critic was pleased. Continued appearances by the redhead maid Moira, as Ben sees her, will assure my pruriently loyal viewership.

"You got a real thing for the girls with colored hair," said Zach, when we first discussed the show.

"No, just saucy old maids," I quipped, convincing absolutely no one.

On the sixteenth commenced the second season of AMC's zombie apocalypse drama, The Walking Dead, which inaugurated the network's "Fear Fest" programming schedule and fated Zach and me to spend the next fifteen days as braindead, hollow-eyed, sleepless trudgers. For we will wait up well later than the witching hour, fixated on our TVs, hungrily hoping for some classic horror films that probably won't even be shown.

Then, a holiday miracle: without notice, one benevolent soul out in the world of the living delivered our Octoberfeast from mere acceptability, by way of an infusion of funds to my inmate account. In the eleventh hour I was able to purchase the picante sauce, jalapeƱo peppers, and ranch dressing for which our ritual clamors — plus a bite of chocolate for a greedy little dessert. When Zach asked how I was able to afford proper garnish for our garish dish, I summoned my best Vincent Price imitation to mutter, "It came... from the world beyond!"

So shall our screen worship persist, night upon night, until its preordained climax, commemorated by the unholy mass (of smothered chips), on Halloween. Such is the way. The craving will not be assuaged but through our sacred rite. How else might we satiate ourselves, after all — with a glut of food on Thanksgiving? Please.

18 October, 2011

Deep-Sixing the Double Six to Keep the Peace

There's a war on, a war seemingly without end. It is a war between the prisoners in our wing who play dominoes and the prisoners who want some peace and quiet. It is a war fiercely waged, and sometimes there are casualties.

The dominoes players have their regular table, where they congregate for epic games of "bones." There they while away the afternoons and evenings. Connoted by "epic" is both that the games are lengthy and that they sound like audio re-enactments of the Trojan and Peloponnesian wars, complete with grunts, fearsome battle cries, and the clangor of colliding shields. The players' enthusiasm for the game is amply and often expressed. Not a day passes that they neglect their precious pastime.

It's not an enthusiasm shared by everyone, of course, as some of us wing residents are wet blankets and stodgy malcontents with the zany notion that, outside of dire situations, one shouldn't shout at another from anything less than a substantial distance (and then, preferably not indoors). We don't see much point in getting wound up; it's only a game. Besides, some of us are trying to use the phone... or hear ourselves think. The slamming and the shouting — are they really called for?

Non-players address the players' racket in one of two ways: (1) they let the players' volume reach a level that can only be described as unconscionable before screaming an even louder "Hey!" and glaring pointedly; or (2) they steal one of the dominoes from the box when no one's looking. The first method only rarely has any effect. In this community populated with so many violent criminals, the passive-aggressive approach seems to be the more frequent one. Either way, the players never equate cause with effect. The sounds of battle always resume as soon as the set of dominoes is again made whole.

So, as I was seated on my usual perch at the far end of the upper tier, reading a collection of short works by Kafka and appreciating a rare mid-afternoon placidity, I wasn't surprised to learn someone had once more made off with one of the little ivory-colored tiles.

"Hey, excuse me," the lanky man — one of the players who'd journeyed far in his search, if he'd come all the way to me — said. "You seen the Big Six domino? You know where it went?"

"I wouldn't have any idea," I told him, making the eye contact crucial to avoiding his dangerous suspicion. Most of us who disapprove of the players' rudeness favor a policy of non-confrontation, whereas they tend to go strongly in the opposite direction. I was in no mood just then to face off over someone's missing game piece. Even if I was, I wouldn't tell this person from a rival camp the fate of said trinket. "Someone probably threw it away," I said, adding hopefully, "or flushed it down their toilet."

My interlocutor scowled. I'm quiet and unobtrusive, yet also self-assured — a blank slate, a cypher, an X factor. He was sizing me up. Was I telling the truth, or did I know who'd sabotaged their fun? He finally shook his head, sufficiently convinced of my ignorance. "Man, some people!" he said, then turned away in resumption of his quest.

Maybe it will turn up, maybe it won't. My own selfish hopes lie on the latter. "Some people," indeed.

05 October, 2011

Some Writing Prompts Cribbed from the Letters of a Prolifically Unpublished Friend (Use at Your Own Risk)

  • Concept: the search for artistic proof that time is bipolar

  • Concept: the invention of a spell-check machine for dreams

  • Starting dialog:"Dude, I just broke my fucking guitar over some fucker's head! You gotta send me a new one."

  • Starting sentence: I know a girl who ends every sentence with "...and everything."

  • Concept: tortured life of godly obsession versus masturbation

  • Concept: a very nice guy who's never offended anyone

  • Concept: why laundromats make me horny

  • Title: A Catholic on the Hill Floats to Heaven on Bingo Wings

  • Starting sentence: Today the moat is calm, quiet. Colorless. Wet.

  • Exercise: review a nonexistent play, film, or concert

  • Concept: characters in novels aging with time — like the next time you read Huck Finn he's using a walker to hobble onto the raft, Tom and Becky long since gone

  • Concept: the trouble with milk